This time last year, I wrote about the mixed emotions of coming to the end of the summer and facing a new school year. I reflected on how this time of year brings both excitement at meeting new students and trepidation because of the multitude of challenges facing teachers each year.
Although the challenges of August 2019 were real and significant, the challenges of August 2020 feel more real and more significant. A year ago, today’s education reality would have seemed like a bad sci-fi movie.
I would have thought, “That could never really happen in real life.”
But it has.
If 2020 has taught me anything, it’s that I really cannot predict future, and I definitely cannot control many things happening around me. You are probably feeling the same way as you navigate mandates related to masks, social distancing, and remote learning at your school. Not to mention the reality of students’ varying technology access and the on-going effects of deep poverty. It’s a lot to work through.
Some of your colleagues have decided now is the time to step out of the profession they have loved. Perhaps they were close to retirement, and these burdens or the accompanying health concerns led them to leave a little early. I can understand that. This will be my 28th year as an educator. If I had remained in a K-12 classroom for all those years, I would be one of those colleagues considering whether it was time to go. It would not have been an easy decision, and it likely wasn’t for your colleagues either.
Some of your colleagues are just getting started. They are beginning their teaching experiences in a remote learning setting. This time will affect their entire careers in ways we cannot even fathom today. Hopefully the effects will be good as they learn to embrace the possibilities of truly integrating technology into education. They will have to be creative, out-of-the-box thinkers in order to develop relationships with students and to teach the content well.
You also have colleagues who are caught in the middle. Too young to retire but experienced enough to wish for the “way it was”. They realize now that it wasn’t actually so bad a year or two ago. It may be these colleagues who lead the way through this tough time. They know the importance of connecting with students and families. They know the content that needs to be taught, and they have experience teaching it effectively.
Now, more than ever, teachers need each other. Those who are close to retirement but have decided to hang on need opportunities to share their experience and knowledge. They need to be heard. Younger teachers need to learn from this shared experience, but they also need to share how technology can be used to conceptualize teaching differently.
Those educators in the middle can act as a bridge to hold it together to move everyone forward. They can facilitate technology training for more experienced teachers. They can help less experienced teachers see the wisdom in learning from others. It won’t be easy, but it can be done if teachers commit themselves to working together.
So much in media these days emphasizes the divisiveness in our world. It’s as if people are encouraged to pick a side and to see those on the other side as bad or wrong. Teaching is a passionate calling for most educators. It doesn’t call us to pick a side, because we have already chosen it. We have chosen to side with doing what is best for students and families.
By committing to work with our colleagues, we can address the challenges that face us this school year—even 2020 types of challenges.
Help is here.
Whether you have colleagues in your school who are willing to work with you or not, the Dear Dr. Mooney community will be here to provide advice and support along with the way. You don’t have to navigate all of these challenges alone. Like-minded colleagues from around the country are accessible to answer your questions and provide the support you need.
Also, don’t forget to subscribe to Dear Dr. Mooney so you can receive the weekly article directly to your inbox each Wednesday morning.
Here’s an easy way to get started!